Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Essay 2—Men and Women in the Human Family—(4a) In Harmony With the Gospel

Outline: 012-E2.4a-In Harmony with the Gospel
Passage: 1 Corinthians 7:1-9
Discussion Audio (39m)

Neither singleness or marriage represents the ideal spiritual condition.

Chapter 7 of the First Epistle is one that has been misread, misinterpreted, and misused by Christians from almost the very beginning of its history. It has been used to justify both singleness/celibacy and marriage as the supreme spiritual state for Christians. It has been used to allow and disallow divorce and remarriage. It has been used to support patriarchy.

Ironically, Paul wrote the words in this chapter to combat nearly the very same aberrant teachings that the Corinthian believers held in regards to sexual relations and associated issues.

The overarching theme of this chapter is:

“Do not seek a change in status.”[1]

Paul sees both singleness and marriage as charisma, spiritual gifts. Both are equally good. If a person is gifted with singleness, s/he should not envy marriage or feel guilty for not wanting marriage. If a person is gifted with marriage, s/he should not envy singleness or feel that somehow they would be “more spiritual” and be able to “devote more of their energies to God” if they were single. Churches and church members should not prioritize, idealize, or idolize either singleness or marriage as “more spiritual” than the other. Neither singleness or marriage should made to be a source of guilt and shame for any Christian. No Christian should stigmatize and shame another for their choice to either remain single or to become married.

In this passage, Paul affirms the goodness of marriage. Paul also affirms the goodness of remaining single. Paul affirms the equality of men and women. What Paul does is denounce asceticism. And Paul denounces relationships where authority between partners is unequal.

[1] New International Commentary: The First Epistle, entry for 1 Cor. 7:1-40.

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